“And so this is Christmas”

carThis is it. My Dad’s 1938 Chevrolet that he parked by the road every winter before the days of snowplows and more than one shovel per household…apparently. I look at it and see the cottage behind and it was then owned by a Mr. Kenyan..or Kenyon..who knows. Dad called him “Kato”..Dad had a name for everything and everyone.

“And so this is Christmas”…John Lennon’s lyrics to one of my favorite songs. It is Christmas and I am alone. Sam, the tuxedo cat, is resting his head on one of my feet, daring me to go near the feedbag without his knowledge.

You can’t be alone on Christmas, people wail. You can and chances are sometime during your life time, you will be. My first experience was in 1974 when I had a branch from some evergreen stuck in a vase on a windowsill….over the laundromat in Locke Mills, Maine. Circumstances put me there. My children had always gone to their paternal grandparents for Christmas dinner and gifts and I was not breaking the tradition. Never mind their son and I had divorced months earlier; they were good folks.

Today circumstances have put me in a different position. I had an hour with my son and his lady this morning and they are off to see her mother in another state who is not well and waiting for them. They will be back tomorrow and old Sam and I will still be doing our thing…sitting, thinking, writing and eating..mostly the latter, I am afraid!

You are never alone when you have memories. My middle son, Gary, loves to tell the story how I managed to put the tree in the farm by myself one year , losing every needle en route to the blessed corner. I smile. The clock was striking 1 a.m. one year when I cursed the fact I was ever dumb enough to purchase a metal gas station or was that a metal farm. It WAS metal. TAB A into Slot B . They were thrilled the next morning and did not notice I had taken out stock in Johnson and Johnson bandaids as my hands were cut, nicked and not ready for photographs.

Grace and Charlie Day, our neighbors one ( then one now two) houses south of where we lived, always managed some little gift for me. I’d run up the stairs to my side of the attic and tear open the package. At that time, manicure sets were very popular amongst young girls and hair brushes and the like. I remember feeling very grown up at the time.

The strangest gift I ever saw and this includes every long year of my life was one purchased by my father. They sat at either end of the kitchen table, with the rest of us scattered here and there. She opened the large box with anticipation, probably hoping for once to realize a dream, and there laid a pair of black and white cowgirl boots. She picked them up, looked at them and very carefully laid them back in the box and put them on the table without a word.  I have no idea why he bought them…he never needed a reason. She liked western music but didn’t yodel or ever grace a stage. We stood there thunderstruck and never did get an answer.

When my oldest son, Brian, was two he was given a Handy Andy Tool Kit. He proudly walked around for days swinging it by the handle. I think he was sizing up the job and how much to charge because a few days later he was busily trying to saw down the Christmas tree. Later in life, he became a master carpenter. Go figure.

Somewhere I have a photo of Alan holding his Tom Thumb typewriter, for which he had asked for months. Nothing else…just that typewriter and he used it over and over and kept it carefully in its bright red plastic case. I believe it had a wheel and you had to choose the letter one wanted.

Debbie was happy , as was Gary, with most anything that could move or engage in battles. Gary loved G.I. Joe and Debbie had a Barbie. Back then, the custon in our household was to choose one gift which we considered expensive and then the rest could be little this and thats to go with it or whatever. Everything was so appreciated and that trait has stayed with my children as they grew to adulthood.

I was never good at buying adult gifts. The childrens’ father would open one corner of a gift to see what it was and drop it to the floor by his chair. Oh, I have seen a lot of men do the same! Well one year, I knew he wanted something and I saved, saved and saved. I wrapped, wrapped and wrapped some more. In the 18 years I lived on that farm, I do not think I ever saw a more pleased expression than when he ripped the paper off and discovered he had a stainless steel milk pail. He loved that thing and he probably used it as long as he had cows or goats. In fact, he consented to mixing up some sort of mixed drink one New Years Eve and using it as a center piece for a little gathering and the only gathering we had at the farm. I was a success at last!!

So yes this is Christmas. My soul mate of 41 years left me a couple months ago, but he would want me sitting here, writing, remembering and passing on stories.  I would like to think he is on my shoulder reading this, and if so, he will remember the time we counted our Christmas money and having only enough for gas for my little VW to travel to Maine to see the kids who wanted to finish high school there with their friends. There is no such thing as a heater in a VW bug so I wrapped a blanket around my feet and we traveled the 5.5 hours alternating between shivering and hoping the wind wouldn’t blow us over.

Good times. Good memories.



It’s always been this way…ever since I can remember, way, way back in the Greenwood Center days did I ever get that excited about Christmas. Now there were some kids who gnawed the last of the turkey ( chicken in our house) at Thanksgiving and had pencil in hand with their first note to Santa.  We never gave it much thought until one weekend day my mother would suggest it might be a good idea to get a tree in “for the kids.” My father was the Scrooge of all holidays…I know, I know he is not here to defend himself, but he would be the first to admit it. Grudgingly, he’d pull on his boots, knot them three times at the top, stick his feet in his snowshoes and then start searching for the axe. Since we lived in the forest, one would think he would have been happy to have such a selection of greenery from which to choose. We were lucky if he went fifty feet past the outhouse, chose the old maid of the forest and returned dragging it through the snow as to collect every flake on the limbs into one big white glob by the time he got it to the front steps. By the way, he was not singing carols in the five minutes it took him to complete this task. It is better  you don’t know. We knew the tree would have two boards nailed to the bottom, then nailed to the kitchen floor and two hanks of rope( to be replaced on the clothesline come spring) to tie the tree on each side to a railroad spike he probably stole from the track when out hunting. So now you can understand my mind and body’s reluctance to accept any kind of Christmas spirit. We even took bets on how long it would take before one of the decorations caught on my father’s sleeve to start another uproar. It was part of the joyous Christmas season and one we anticipated each year and thought nothing of it.

Meanwhile, my sainted Gram Martin stood for hours in her plaid house dress covered with an immaculately clean apron, cotton stockings and blue sneakers carefully cutting out cookies, putting exactly the same amount of raisin filling in each one, covering it with another, making little tine marks around each one in such a manner, one would think a machine had done if for her. She had knit our hats and mittens months before and she was set for the holidays. There were no big fireworks and no big to-do at the farm house, but it was a peaceful feeling with the cow in the barn( lowing as in all Sunday school stories) and probably talking to the pig at midnight. I have no idea.

So now let’s fast forward six decades…one would think over a span of sixty years ( and more) that the Christmas spirit might make a move  sometime before the 24th of the month. Never happened. Until yesterday. Sam (Tuxedo Cat) and I were having a spirited conversation about probably one of these nights he might try catching a mouse who now weighs fifty lbs from eating peanut butter off a trap. About that time the mail man came and there were cards. I sat at my desk, enjoying the notes and the sceneries on each and Sam looked up and said, “Forget the mouse. Let’s bake cookies.” I swear it was either Sam or the Devil.  “No, too late in the day. My back is killing me and I can’t handle it all today.” ( cop out right there). “There are some you can put together and leave in the fridge over night and finish tomorrow.” The cat wouldn’t let up….

Forty minutes later, there was a lump of off- white dough in a green mixing bowl on the third shelf of the fridge. It was in the ecru range of color but looked about right for something that should taste like a sugar cookie. Fridge door shut; dough forgotten; bed time.

Do not, I repeat, do not look in the fridge for anything before you have your favorite beverage in the morning. The first thing I saw was that olive green bowl and the ecru colored dough. What was I thinking? Who on this planet wants to dig out a rolling pin and cut out little shapes ? Obviously I had experienced a lapse of judgment and given in to the cat/devil the day before. 

Let’s get this over with now and I can get on with the rest of the winter. Out comes the pastry board..oh, look, it is also a cutting board since my son was here prepping for the Food network. There’s the rolling pin…waiting for the cobwebs to be removed and scrubbed down. Flour…have to have flour. Dough sticks without flour. Oh, the recipe says it should not stay in fridge over two hours…well I over looked that little item in my spurt of spirit yesterday and  now I not only have dough, I have a bowling ball that could wipe out ten pins with no problem. Sip the tea…tap the dough..sip the tea..tap the dough. Can’t let it get too soft. OH, what shape shall they be? We have every reindeer and the jolly man himself, name it Christmas and I have it in a cookie cutter. Do I want to really go through all this? Flour on the board…slap some dough, roll it out, sip the tea, …whoa, wait one minute…there is an interesting little cookie cutter right there…

My mind works in mysterious ways…one cookie cutter…one to wash…not a multitude of little crevices etc…hmmmm….and that is how I ended up with six dozen musical notes..each about two inches long. ….and about six cookie sheets more to wash than I should have.

No apron, floppy slippers, snarl on the lips, boy, Gram would be proud of me. Now that I have have my spurt of Christmas spirit, I can sit back, relax and figure out how to catch that fifty lb. mouse .



Cranky Aunts and other Memories

18543_1252857814166_5455564_nNovember isn’t the same any more…at least in what is left of my memory bank. As soon as we finished our Thanksgiving dinner, which was eaten at the convenience of deer hunters, I always strapped on a pair of my brother’s old outgrown skates and tried to hop around branches and twigs inbedded in ice on a little piece of bog near our house. It was cold. There was usually snow on the ground..maybe not much, but a tracking snow for the hunters and enough for my old buckle boots flapping away to make a little trail.

October was the month for kicking leaves to see how high they would go. We had no leaves in our yard as there was nothing but the old apple tree complete with the old auto tire hanging for a swing.

But I digress. This time of year if I think back to Greenwood Center, my  mind goes to an early morning fog rising off Twitchell Pond and shivering til the sun came up to take the nip away. I was going to tell you about my cranky aunts…which probably is terribly unfair, now that I think of it…at my age.

I blame it on the fact I was brought up with three brothers, no other  girls in the neighborhood to play with except for one exceptional year and then she left after the one year.

My days were spent with my Uncle Louie ( the one with the sapphire eyes) . I turned the grindstone handle for him or watched as he meticulously piled the winter wood in a very artistic manner. I visited my Uncle Roy to see his latest carvings and needless to say, followed my father around when I was eight or nine years old. So I was more at ease with men then with women.

The two women who figured in my life were my mother, who was busy either working at home or at the mill and my dear little Grammy Martin, who shared her hen house duties with me, as well as snapping peas on her front porch.

So it came to pass, one day I was told that my Aunt “Vi” was moving back to live with Grammy. She and her husband were coming from Connecticut , which in my young mind, must be a million miles away. She was nice . I stood on the porch and watched her unpack box after box. I can imagine that drove her to distraction as finally she gave me a kewpie doll on a stick and I ran happily home with that. Our paths did not clash for about a year after that.

Grammy’s house didn’t seem the same. It had always been Louie, Grampa and Grammy and we got along very well, thank you. One thing remained constant. We still were carrying water from Gram’s to drink and cook with, so that one day I thought nothing of carrying the pail across the field and into Gram’s kitchen. W-e-l-l. I took one step into GRAM’s kitchen and a gawdawful screech came from the other side of the house.

“I just washed and waxed that floor and now you’re on it.” Frankly, our own floor at home was made of boards and we scrubbed it. Period. I had heard of wax on cars and skiis but on floors? I had no idea. Gram stood behind my aunt, wringing her hands. Now Gram and I had come a long way in my short life and no one was going to make her wring her hands. I reached down, touched the floor, brought my head up and said, “Your floor is just fine.” and proceeded to fill the pail and when it was full, I strutted out of GRAM’s house, head held high.

After leaving the water at home, I proceeded to pass Gram’s house to go visit my friend, Grace, and my aunt was still screeching about what kind of a daughter her brother had and I think the word “uncivilized” came into play, but at age 8 or 9, a good roll of my eyes sufficed.  After all these years, I can see this scenario in my mind as if it happened yesterday and I think that is how I learned throughout life…observe and learn( and be a little snarky at the same time, obviously).

Now, wait, there was another aunt who thought I could have gone to charm school and profited highly. My cousin , Blaine, was unfortunate enough to be born exactly one year after me. We both were photographed so many times, there could be a full length movie made of us. SO it came to pass, that on that precious day in February, I should leave my school desk and proceed up Bird Hill with cousin Blaine to have a birthday “dinner” with him. Aunt Mary, in all her goodness and kindness of heart, had the best intentions and I cannot tell you how many years we plodded up the hill. I was about the same age as the big floor wax eruption, so maybe it was just a bad year for me.

I remember the table being covered with food…remember our own table at home usually held the fare of fish sticks, deer meat, trout etc. We are talkng a banquet, in my eyes, topped off with a cake the size of the Eiffel Tower. I ate..and ate..and ate..the cake was served and Blaine and I went out to play until it was time to plod back down the hill to school. Suddenly through the open window, I heard, “Does that child ever eat at home? Where does she put it all? I have never seen anyone eat as much at one sitting as she did.”

Blaine apparently did not hear this, as he continued playing. I started feeling guilty. Maybe I did take too much. Maybe this, maybe that, so by the time we got back at our desks, my stomach was as taut as a trampoline. I managed to get through til the bus took us back home, but without saying a word to the parents, swore I would never go back. I was so ashamed.

Fast forward to the following year. I sit at the table, look at the towering display of food and take just enough to cover a small portion of my plate. Aunt Mary stands behind me saying , “My goodness, child, you eat like a bird. You have to have more than that to get you through this afternoon even.” It could have been the clash of the Martin temperment; hers of her generation; mine in my generation. I swore I would starve before taking one more morsel.  I didn’t take one morsel; I didn’t starve.

But what I did do was learn. I observed, ( got a little snarky and stubborn) but I learned. Most of my life I have learned how to get along in society by observing….and it all started with two cranky aunts….who, incidentally, were two precious friends when I finally grew up!


huntersGrowing up in Greenwood Center, Maine, probably was not the most exciting, but with the coming of the fall’s crispness and gathering of apples, one could feel what could only be described as a zing of excitement with hunting season closing in.

This was way before the days of flourescent clothing and Dad’s red and black plaid heavy jacket hung on the peg behind the woodstove just waiting for that first fog shrouded morning when the calendar said “it’s time!”

Oh, the planning that went into each venture. Chairs were pulled around the kitchen table, heads bent low as Dad penciled a map where each man was to go. Some would “drive”, others would be standing here and there. I will preface this by saying, I was the only one in the room who did not participate in hunting nor even understand what was going on. As we “kids’ grew into teenagers, my mother even joined the foray and enjoyed every minute of wandering the mountains. This was almost beyond my comprehension when most of her life was working in local mills and for any enjoyment, sitting behind her sewing machine. She  now had a gun and was joining forces with all these men! Unbelievable.

The kitchen air was so full of cigaret smoke that it hung like smog over a city. It was part of the whole game plan. No one thought about lung damage, unfortunately, or any serious health hazard. The smoke was as much a part of the planning as my mother’s new glass coffee pot perking on the woodstove. That glass coffee pot almost caused a casualty..and it had nothing to do with the hunting whatsoever.

Dad had completed a good share of what was to be the next morning’s hunt and decided he would have a bit more caffeine to brighten his outlook. He did what he described as a “Canadian Clog” learned in the potato fields of northern Maine, to the stove, grabbed the pot, filled his cup and clogged back to the stove, only to mis -calculate the height of the stove. There was quite the clang and bang with my mother running top speed, but Pyrex must have made them sturdy. The brand new glass coffee pot was intact as was my Dad’s head after that near catastrophe.

As with most young men, my two older brothers often had late nights prior to an early morning hunt. When I say early, I mean before the sun is up and my Dad behind the wheel of his car, gun by his side ready to roll. One morning he tracked a deer or perhaps got a shot at one ..so many years ago I forget the details, but he came ripping back to the house. My brothers were still snug in bed, blankets to their chins. This was just not done..not in hunting season. Up the stairs Dad bounded, yanked both out of bed, exclaimed in as few words as possible the position he was in and that they had to get up and at it immediately. I cannot relate what happened after that, only for years after, one of my brothers mentioned he was on top of a mountain hunting, glanced down and he was wearing his “dress shoes” from the night before. Hunting was serious.

As much as I disliked seeing the dead deer, I realized at an early age, it was necessary to shoot and use all the meat. It got us through the winter and we were taught to say nothing…if we did not like to look at the dead deer, don’t look. Period. Even knowing that, I shared in the excitement of seeing the car come in the driveway and if the trunk was a bit ajar, running with the rest to see if there was a deer in there.

When the time came for flourescent clothing, most men were downright disgusted at the flaming oranges etc. Over the years it was accepted and has probably saved a lot of lives. There was only one time when my Dad came home, ashen faced and looking a bit scared. Come to find out, someone had shot in his direction. He hit the ground after just the one shot. When he decided it was safe, he got up and found the bullet hole in the tree next to where he was standing. His one remark was “Damn out -of-stater”. It could have been his neighbor, but so much easier to blame it on someone with a strange number plate on his car.

There is nothing better than a mince pie made out of real mince meat ; my mother took the meat and ground it for what seemed forever. I remember the sizzle of the steak as Dad cut it from a hind quarter and tossed it in the hot frying pan. We seldom called it venison; it was deer meat. It has been a long time since I’ve had meat like that. I did have some about twenty years ago from a friend in Vermont and it tasted like beef to me and someone said it was because they grazed with the cattle in the fields. Now, that to me, is not deer meat. Deer meat has to be earned..you get up before dawn, run yourself ragged, eat track soup  most of the season and if you’re lucky, on the last day, you get your deer and pose with the tag in the ear.

I could never bring myself to hunt; but the memories of hunting season bring a special feeling.

The Perfect Brother

From the day he drew his first breath, some _____( add your own number, Rex) years ago, he was the Prince of Greenwood Center in my mother’s eyes. I say this , not as his only sister, but it was a well known fact that he also “took after” her side of the family with his darker looks and he had the “look”. You know, the “look” that spells innocent in capital letters? He had it. It came with him; his own personal birthright.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that not only did I not look like my mother’s side of the family with the blonde hair, blue eyes and don’t give a crumb attitude so imbedded in the Martin side, but that I lacked an innocent look. I looked guilty when I was completely innocent…my own personal birthright.

I remember distinctly the brawl in which Rex and I were engaged when mother emerged on the scene in the little room. At the time I may ( or may not have had) a broom in my hand. I admit to nothing. The end result was the smashing of a very valuable lamp chimney on whose light we depended the minute the sun went down. I swear my mother did not, did not even look in his direction. She took one look at the broom, at me, pointed at the open door and said and I quote after sixy some odd years, “Young lady ( she always called me that when she was furious and just short of putting me up for adoption) you get out in the neighborhood, see who has a spare chimney and don’t come home without one.” I went to the door, turned and yelled my most famous chant of the times, “HE started it”. Two of her steps in my direction and I hit the dirt with feet flying. We had light that night so apparently I was successful…the rest of the scenario blurs in my mind.

Another uppermost in my mind was the famous door yard fight where we had flung everything possible at each other until we came to our foot wear. It was in the middle of this melee of throwing shoes at each other when mother came out the front door and yelled, “What are you doing?” Strange in looking back, Rex did not move. I ran like the wind for the main road and in the breeze behind me was mother’s voice echoing, “you have to come home some time, young lady.” (Notice the ‘young lady’ title again). I did go home but I think I waited until we had company because she did not want to show her wrath ( i.e. dirty laundry) in public.

As we grew older and in high school, his friends were my “buddies” too. His best friend was my favorite buddy, but there came a time when that friendship was almost severed.  Seems there was a Sadie Hawkins Dance, and as you know, the girls have to ask the boys. No way did I have any interest in any boy there nor did I want to even attempt to dress up and attend. OK, so his pleading look ( another birthright) got to me when he said his buddy wanted to go but would only go with me. Long story short. I asked, we went, the buddy forgot to put gas in the car at Phon Brown’s filling station and we ran out just about where the road to Johnny’s Bridge is today on Rt. 26. Oh, no, the buddy said. Well, another so called buddy came along, and off to the nearest gas selling establishment they went and returned with a red five gallon can of the needed fuel to take us to this dreaded event.  The dance was ok..we might have taken six steps around the floor and talked with everyone else we knew that night…and then on the way home..oh, yes, everyone was gathering at a local hang out by a pond. Actually that is what we did back then..just hung out, talked, joked, some sneaked a beer and home we went. For some reason, some guy made a remark in my direction that the “good” buddy did not like and he lashed out with his fist, missed the guy completely and drove his hand into a birch tree, barking up every knuckle on that hand. The ride home was interesting, interspersed with whimpers from behind the wheel. That is why I had no interest in asking any boy to any dance. Period.

In spite of my lapses in judgement and agreeing to incidents like the one described above, Rex rescued me a few times from a few mis-judgments on my part. I dated one guy and at the end of that very long, miserable evening swore I would never go near him again. One Sunday afternoon, he drove in our yard in his very new , low slung 1950’s wide-finned car and inquired about me. Upon seeing the grill of the car, I slung my body to the stairs leading to the attic screaming for Rex to get rid of the guy. I was not an eye witness. It isn’t easy to see when one is under a bed behind two cardboard boxes and a blanket over one’s eyes…however, it was told that Rex wandered casually up to the car, the guy rolled his window down, Rex leaned in, put one finger under the guy’s nose and told him to pull a “u-ee”, get out of the yard and he never wanted to see him near his sister again. The guy blinked, did indeed pull the “u-ee” and I never had to see him again. For that time, I thank my brother.

The last I knew, Rex had forgiven me for putting our one baseball bat on Dad’s sawhorse and using the buck saw on it. It was my turn to bat and that is what he got for being selfish and not giving me an extra turn. That is probably the only time I was to blame for any incidents we may have engaged in during our growing up years.

Then high school graduation came. Rex left and went to Korea. Boy , did I hate to admit I missed him. I was married and to this day I remember his coming through the door at the farm, seeing Debra Jo, a few months old lying on the couch, crossing the kitchen and saying, “Hey, this has to be my niece”….and for a few seconds there all my cranky feelings of his being Ma’s pet went right out the window.

Next month, another birthday, Rex. We always knew we’d make it, didn’t we…shoe throwing and all!


More Thoughts flutter by

It is on those nights when sleep eludes and my mind is like a hamster on his wheel that I let it go up and down the “tarred” road of the little hamlet where I grew up. Perhaps it is because I know, in time, I will fall asleep in the midst of an old memory.

I start my journey at Dan Cole’s farm which, from my very first memory, I identified as the mile marker from our home. If you walked to Dan Cole’s, you had walked a whole mile.. a tremendous feat for little feet! It was essential for giving directions in the summer to those”out-of-staters” trying to find this and that. ‘Oh you go to Dan Cole’s farm up the road about a mile..white building, turn right and go up over Rowe Hill’ was a phrase repeated incessently most summers.

Then the Case cottage with its annual picnic for all the Greenwood Center neighbors, complete with entertainment from the Cole family. Charlotte and Lillian singing “Wintertime in Maine” with Irving in the background playing guitar. The rest of us milled around the food table and ate as though we hadn’t eaten in a fortnight.

Below I see Stan and Flossie Seames’s little green house on the knoll. Now there was the finest couple ever. One of my first baby sitting jobs was caring for Raymond and Evvie , then six and four years old. They sent word home by my parents that they needed someone for the summer; pay was $12 a week, was I available. Well, just so happened I was and one of the best memories ever in my junk drawer. Each morning Evvie had her hair curled like Shirley Temple. She sat still as a mouse while I wound each curl around the handle of the comb. I hate to admit it, for fear Raymond might get a swelled head, but those two were the best kids I ever sat with in my short baby sitting career.

However there WAS one fly in the ointment. Stan had a tub in the back room and the first day, asked if I minded taking the paddle near by and stirring the contents twice a day. That was no problem. The problem arose when each of my little ones wanted to lick the paddle after the stir. We finally worked it out that one licked in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Compare that to today’s standards and I would be sitting in a jail cell and they would be ruined for life. Traumatized, I am sure. It was harmless and that was the extent of any arguements the entire summer.

One day, I became very bold, found a recipe and decided to make Flossie a chocolate cake. I don’t know why, except at home I was forbidden to get into the ingredients for fear of failure. I remember trembling a bit when she and Stan came home from work and showing her the cake( actually a very good looking one)…well she was so pleased one would have thought I’d given her a million dollars and she couldn’t stop telling me how much that helped her. Music to my 16 year old ears! Maybe that made up for the time I was preparing lunch for the kids and took a can of spaghetti-os from the cupboard which had been laid aside for that meal. Innocent about all foods and anything to do with it, I put the can opener in the top, took one spin with the hand and it exploded. We had spaghettio’s everywhere..even the ceiling. It was a long afternoon of cleaning.

Now you can see why I have such memories in many of the houses in our hamlets. That was the year the hurricane came through. The kids were having a nap and I noticed bottles flying over the porch. Soon Stan and Flossie arrived, followed by my parents to take me home. I stood in our living room and watched the trees bend almost to the ground. The first hurricane I remember in the summer of 1954.

So I leave the Seames and go to the brown house where my great Uncle Elmer Cole  lived . I see in the entry way his assortment of cough drops and other necessities that the neighbors drop in to buy and chat. I only have to say, “Hello I am Ethel’s daughter” and a huge smile appears and he takes my nickel and hands me Smith Brothers cough drops.

Laura Seames lived in the white house and such a lady. She bought the Grit from me and when I was in contention for Carnival Queen, bought a ticket to “help me out”…such a lady.

Of course there was the Cole farm with its big truck, big sand pit and they were rich because they had a telephone! One highlight from that family was the day I went on an unscheduled ride. I was practically on my own turf walking nonchantly along when Elwin came down the “flat”riding his new bike. I admired it and told him I had never ridden a bike. Being the gentleman he was( or maybe I roughed  him up a bit) I was soon on the bike seat. Elwin was running aside of me yelling” keep pedaling, slow down” which, to me, meant two different things. Then the yelling went to “stop” and I had no clue. Long story short…I arrived at the end of our drive way, hit the mail box went over the handlebars, landed in the dirt. By the time I picked myself up, Elwin and his bike were headed up the “flat” toward home.

In this time period, my Uncle Glenn and family had moved and a new family came to live next door. I remembered all the plays that my cousins Louise and Carmen and I put together using their picnic table for the stage. The Center was empty after they moved and the sign with the big bear advertising my Uncle’s taxidermy business was gone.

So many memories flitting and fluttering about in my midnight mind. I am now at our own little house in the woods…..think I will wait for another sleepless night to continue the journey.


Junk Drawer in my Mind

That’s what it is, you know. That little drawer you pull out or sometimes it just slips out for no reason at all …that drawer full of miscellany gathered through the years. There’s absolutely no reason why some of that data is saved and probably we aren’t aware it is saved until a smell, a song or something from the past pulls the knob and out slides the drawer.

Why would I remember some of the junk that rattles in my brain. So clearly I remember helping Ma hang clothes and when we were finished, she leaned down, picked a small white plant and asked if I knew what it was. Well, without waiting for me to answer, she told me it was Indian tobacco and proceeded to break off the head of it and chew it. Not to be outdone in any way, I followed suit and proceeded to pass the rest of the day by chewing and spitting out some sort of brown liquid and thought I was pretty smart for my nine years of age. Ma did not take much time during her busy hours for fun and laughter, leaving that up to my Dad who excelled at it, but the Indian tobacco day lives in my mind.

I seemed to be the “achy” kid. It was a known fact that my left ear could not go a day without it rattling the side of my head. In fact, at one time during a particularly horrid winter, a friend of my mother’s at the mill, sent a hot water bottle to school by her son during the lunch hour. I remember laying my head on the hot water bottle during the afternoon and how grateful I was for the heat. Dad had his own cure for that at home. In the evening, he lit a cigarette, brushed my hair to one side, and blew the smoke in my ear and immediately pushed some cotton in. Whether it was because he took the time to pay attention to my ear or whether the warm smoke really helped, I have no idea. My mother turned both thumbs down when he announced that some friends had another “cure” back in the “old country”. They used a teaspoon of urine in the ear and that cured all. For some reason, whatever Ma told Dad about that suggestion never made it to my junk drawer.

I always had one tooth that ached. Like other kids at the time, I had made a trip to Dr. Brown in Bethel, had the gas, teeth pulled etc but that one tooth would not let me rest. Ma always went to the cupboard, pulled down a can of McCormick’s cloves and told me to put a dab on my finger..on to the tooth and it would calm it. It did and I swear I used more cloves in my mouth than she did in her cooking. I never tried that on my own four kids though.  Apparently the junk drawer did not have time to open and hand me any of this information.

A lot of useless (?) information floats around in my brain. I remember Dad telling me never to fish for yellow perch in August because they were always wormy that month. I passed that on to my oldest son. I hope Dad knew what he was talking about. Most of any information I have that I probably will never use again was given me by Dad. Like, whatever you do, Muff, don’t buy a Dodge Dart. Those buttons are useless and wish I had never bought it. I think the buttons were the gears if I remember correctly…I had long been married and had no intentions of buying a Dodge Dart…and on another occasion..don’t buy a damn Chevvy. The key broke off in the door and I can’t get it out.  A lot of information on automobiles, especially if he was in frantic mode time.

Half the junk drawer is loaded with tips on hunting and guns, both of which I cared nothing about and the farther I got from a gun, the better. I guess both Ma and Dad felt that all the kids should know how to handle a gun properly and then if we wanted to use one, well we were set for life. 

I guess the junk drawer kind of skittled out this morning as I went out to water my one tomato plant on the deck. Water them in the morning, Ma always said, of her flowers and plants. You  burn their feet if you wait til noon.

OK Ma, that one stuck with me and I even passed it on to a friend the other day. I am sure the junk drawer will come out again on occasion when needed.